Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The morning started out well,  aside from a mild hangover from too many Caipirinhas last night,  I got up,  packed,  and was brought to the airport where my flight was on time and smooth,  all the way to Foz do Iguassu,  with a brief stop somewhere along the line.

Getting to the actual town of Foz do Iguassu sapped the rest of my strength.  I decided to catch the local bus for $1 rather than spent $20 on a cab,  but it started raining heavily before the bus came,  and the bus was very full,  and trying to juggle one large bag and one smaller but heavy bag was a challenge.  I did mange to get someone to tell me the correct stop to get off at,  but then I had another 20 minute hike in the rain before I got to the hostel.  After I got here I struggled with the too-small locker under my bed,  dripping sweat for several minutes until I figured out a solution.  I had a small lunch as well,  and being hungry didn't help.  I finally got everything squared away,  and then just sat in the hostel common area for a while to cool down before grabbing a fast nap.  I managed to make it out to grab some food,  I was going to find something fast,  but then I saw a McDonalds and broke down and ate there.  Brazilian restaurants sometimes don't open until late. 

I am strongly considering spending a lot of money (about $800) to move to the hotel that is located right inside the park, a 5 minute walk away from the falls.  I'm going to get some food and sleep and explore tomorrow and see how I feel then,  but right now I'm just exhausted. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Final Brasilia Exploration

I leave Brasilia on Wednesday,  and tomorrow will be a down day where I prepare for the next few steps of my journey,  I'm not expecting photos or a post tomorrow.  As such,  today was the last day for me to explore Brasilia.  I've already been to quite a bit,  and it turns out that on Monday all the tourist destinations are pretty much closed.  So I ended up with a very long walk,  which I enjoyed,  and got a few low light photos in towards the end of the day.  No interesting stories,  although I was treated to an amazing little Brazilian dessert tonight,  it was described as 50% egg yolk,  50% sugar,  and 50% coconut.  Amazingly delicious.  :)

I forgot to take a picture of Jacques on the TV tower last night.  I fixed that today.

Base of the TV Tower

Bathroom tiles.

More sun,  blue skies,  big poofy clouds,  and Oscar Niemeyer architecture.  Such a rich combination.  :)

A reasonable shot of the exterior of the Metropolitan Cathedral,  with attendant statues.  The cathedral is under restoration,  so getting a shot of it that I liked from the exterior proved difficult.  This image has its flaws,  but does ok under the circumstances.

The presidential working palace.  (The equivalent of the office portions of the whitehouse,  not the bedroom portions).   I waited here for a long time as the sun set for the lights to come on and illuminate the building.  Two minutes after I left the finally came on,  but I had to catch my ride. 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs building.

Fortunately I was able to return to the palace later,  and while there was no light left in the sky,  I did capture a reporter memorizing her notes in front of one of the columns.  Easier to see big.

And finally,  I realize this is a very similar photo to the previous one,  but I like the composition of the flag poles in front.  This is often a problem with my photography,  I'll get two compositions I like quite a bit,  but which are different from each other.  It's very difficult to know which one to pick as the best.  Comments and critique welcome on this,  by the way.  :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brasilia - Presedential Palace and Sunset

Not much to write about today,  plus I have a fingernail giving me problems, and it's a bit painful to type.  So.  Saw the (working) presidential palace today.  The palace where the president lives is elsewhere,  I'll be going through that on Wednesday.  In the evening I made it to the radio/TV tower in the middle of town for the sunset.  I'm so happy to be able to have produced some nice low light images this evening.  I will be attempting more tomorrow late afternoon.  Ok pics now.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brasilia Exploration - Minimalist Photographs from Minimalist Architecture

Today a friend of mine told me that she doesn't think I'll compromise my artistic integrity if I post tourist photos.  That being said,  today I'm largely posting photos that I think are closer to what I'm trying to accomplish as an artist.  There are a few "this is what I saw" photos here too,  but mostly not.

So,  what did I see today?  Mostly more government buildings.  I got tours inside the legislative building and the supreme court,  as well as the Palacia Itamaraty (building of the head office of foreign affairs).  Saw the Plaza of Three Powers (which has the presidential working palace on one side,  the supreme court on the other,  and the legislative buildings on a third.   I also saw the cathedral of Dom Bosco,  quite the impressive piece of architecture,  and a handful of miscellaneous monuments and other buildings,  all,  once again,  in the international modernist style of the 1960's.  The words "windswept plaza" etch themselves into your mind,  walking around this stuff for too long.

So.  Some images from today that I like.

Even Jacques gets in on the artistic photography.

Supreme Court building.

This is not a giant clothespin.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brasilia First Impressions: Oscar Niemeyer is Everywhere.

According to my records,  this is day 30 of my travels.  That's quite a bit under my belt,  and it's less than half way.  I've gotten some fantastic photos,  amazing experiences,  and met many very cool people.  I'm looking forward to the next 30.

Today was a travel day,  I went from Rio de Janiero to Brasilia,  which is the capitol of Brazil.  Brasilia was a planned city,  and created in about 41 months.  It's full of buildings by architect Oscar Niemeyer,  who I wrote about yesterday.  After my flight in to Brasilia and being picked up by my host family,  I was given the option of exploring,  or resting for the rest of the day.  I opted for exploring since the flight was an easy 1 1/2 hour hop. 

As you can see below,  much of this architecture is aggressively 60's,  but it's beautiful and on a grand scale here.  I only had a few hours to explore a few buildings,  and there are many more to come.

Two stories before the pictures.

Story #1:  It is the rainy season in Brasilia,  and all day long as I was exploring incredible thunderhead clouds were building around the city.  (unfortunately they weren't in photogenic locations,  but you can see a little bit of them in the last image).  After I was done exploring during the day,  I was picked up and taken out to dinner.  During this time one of those thunderstorms moved into the city,  and after we left we were absolutely dumped on.  The lightning was flashing at a frenetic pace,  illuminating the structures around me in a a very surreal fashion.  At one point we drove over a bridge and the rain was being blown in great horizontal waves across the roadway.  While it was impossible to photograph this,  this will be a strong memory for me of traveling in Brasilia.

Story #2:  The host family I'm staying with has a gigantic collection of books,  I'd estimate in the thousands.  The titles are pretty diverse,  and in many languages.  They have two apartments,  one is ostensibly the guest bedroom,  which I'm staying in,  but the remainder of my apartment is dedicated to this library.  There's an old computer science interview question that says,  "you're in a library with an unfamiliar categorization scheme.  How would you approach figuring out the scheme?  How could you do it more efficiently?"  I may give it a shot in this library,  because it's not at all clear to me how "Phallic Worship: A History of Sex and Sexual Rites" ends up next to "Your Money and Your Life"

Brazilian Congress building

National Cathedral

National Museum

PS.  other good titles include "Futebol, the Brazilian Way of Life,"  "Epic Folks Plays of the Yiddish Theatre," and  "Fubar: soldier slang of World War II,"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Last Full Day in Rio de Janiero

Today is my last full day in Rio,  and my host family took me out to pretty much everything else in the area that I had not seen.  We started the day by getting up early and heading to Jardim Botanica,  Rio's botanical gardens.  Although it was pretty hot,  and we were all kind of tired,  we wandered around for quite while there.  One word of advice,  if you're looking for excellent Japanese gardens,  Rio is probably not the place for you.  Check out somewhere with a more sizable Japanese population,  like,  say,  Japan.  The rest of the gardens were quite nice though,  with trees from around Brazil and the world,  and giant lily pads,  and a nice orchid greenhouse.

Afterwards we went to Ipanema beach,  purely so I could say I swam there.  The water was cold,  but very refreshing.  Over the last few days, every time I've gone past this beach "The Girl from Ipanema" gets stuck in my head,  and today I also saw the bar where that music was written. 

The highlight of the day for me was being able to photograph the Museum of Modern Art in Niteroi.  This building is an Oscar Niemeyer building,  he's an architect who is very famous in Brazil,  he designed the entire city of Brasilia,  which is the capitol.  He's still alive,  and over 100 years old,  and his buildings are all over the country.  I'm very excited to photograph Brasilia this coming week,  and the Museum building felt like an appetizer for the upcoming main course.

Finally,  we stopped in just before closing at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candel├íria.  I've been having a great time photographing the interior of these amazing cathedrals around South America,  and this was no exception.  The church was originally built by a captain who had been shipwrecked,  and who vowed to build a church on his safe return.  That church is gone, but the church that exists now pays homage to him in great ceiling murals.  The Lonely Planet guidebook says that the church is one of the best examples of Renaissance and baroque architecture in Rio.

Translation:  "Caution!  Turtles do not simply walk into Mordor."  (Kidding)  This was near a turtle pond in the botanical garden,  the real turtles were sunning themselves,  but disappeared quickly after I arrived,  so not shots of Jacques with the other turtles.  The sign actually says to be cautious,  turtles can bite.

Hard to tell from this image, but these lily pads were about 3 feet across.

The location where "Girl from Ipanema" was penned.  I did not see the actual real life girl from Ipanema,  although I understand she does occasionally show up here.  I did however see plenty of other girls from Ipanema,  and that was frequently quite nice.

Ipanema Beach.

The beginning of the architecture shots of the museum.

Hi sister-in-law!  (sorry if you don't get the inside joke.  :)

More interior church shots.